Saturday, July 7, 2018

Ajijic: Local Police - Adventure for the day

We started today by walking into town ready to watch the England soccer game at 9 but nowhere was showing it - what was I thinking?  Why would Mexico TV be showing the game between England and Sweden??  So we ended up at La Casa del Cafe having coffee and breakfast with friends.

On the way home we decided to stop into the empty house of our friends that we are desperately waiting to get here from Cyprus - whatever told us to stop there, we are not sure but it was a good job that we did because Gerald went to the bathroom and noticed broken glass on the floor of the shower - the house had been broken into.  What a horrible sinking feeling!  We looked all around the house and there was nothing taken, no mess, nothing.  We found that the outside gate/door next to the carport doors had been forced open, someone had tried to break the kitchen window with a stone (unsuccessfully), tried to force open the living room patio doors but the additional locks prevented that.  The only way to get access was by pulling the locking peg out of the window frame once the window was broken and then sliding open the window.

Once we had everything figured out, I called the police and they were there in less than 15 minutes.  I cannot praise them enough because they were so nice and friendly and helpful (in spite of my less than perfect Spanish).  When I asked about how best to secure the gate that had been broken into, they advised me about the best type of lock and even called a locksmith for me and arranged for him to be there between 1 and 1:30 today.  They also took our contact information so that they could file a report for us - we did not have to go anywhere and go through the performance of reporting the incident ourselves.  The locksmith arrived exactly at 1 and did a great job of putting a very secure lock on the outside gate and refitting the damaged lock on the patio door, all for the price of only 700 pesos.  All in all we are very impressed with the help we received.  All that remains for us to do now is to get the glass replaced in the little window.  Go figure, a storm has just broken so Gerald is now busy sealing off the window until we can get the vidredia to come out and replace the glass for us.

I went to talk to the Mexican neighbors and found out that they heard the alarm going off around 1 or 2 this morning but they thought it was another neighbor whose alarm goes off every now and again.  They have very kindly said that if they hear it go off again they will immediately call the police and then call us.  This whole incident reaffirms the joy of living here amongst such friendly helpful people - the property is outside of town in a Mexican neighborhood and we now have a excellent relationship with the neighbors which we know will (along with the new lock) prevent any more issues.  We also have some people to house sit for us for a while and are pretty sure that our buddies Sharon and Mark will be here very soon and there will be no more problems.

Fortunately there is nothing worth stealing in the house at the moment which explains why nothing was damaged or stolen - still it is not a fun thing to go through.  Those of you who know me well, know that I firmly believe that every bothersome even has a silver lining, is for a good reason.  In this case we are confident that the house is secure and safe - once Sharon, Mark and their dogs get here .. watch out ha ha

We were also very lucky in that our friends Patti and Lars came running out to support and comfort us and then to take us home - we are so fortunate to have such good and supportive friends.  This is all part of why we love and appreciate living in Mexico.

For anyone who has anything bad to say about our local police, our experience is totally the opposite - so quick, so friendly and so understanding and compassionate.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Ajijic Life: Today we went to see a doctor and other adventures

After yet another night of only 3 hours sleep, I decided that it is time to see a doctor and get some help .. I am exhausted and don't want life to stop being fun.

After Spanish class we started walking to town - on the way we came across Daniel from 'The Hot Dog Shop' which we all know on Ocampo # 3.  Today was the first day that they have (semi) opened further down Ocampo near to where we live.  There are several business moving out in this direction or expanding out to this direction and we asked Daniel if it has anything to do with the rent being cheaper further out west - he agreed that he is paying a little more but getting more space for his money out west and that more people are also moving out in this direction.  Although he is still setting up the new place and intends it to be more like the existing place in town, it is already looking good and I think that it will be very successful, especially since he will be opening from 11 to 11 each day and in this Mexican neighborhood supper is usually eaten late in the evening around 9 or 10.

Onwards into town, we stopped at our favorite coffee shop on Colon for coffee in La Casa del Cafe - a second cup of coffee is definitely OK when you haven't been sleeping he he

On the way, we came across one of the local fish sellers who was doing good business today but stopped for a friendly photograph - yup tilapia from the lake are sold fresh from the wheelbarrow every day in Ajijic.

Finally we walked on to our destination - the rooms of Dra. Jessica Flores whom we met when she made a house call to a friend of ours while we were visiting with them.  Yes, in Mexico they still make house calls and the fee is the same nominal charge as it is at the doctor's rooms.  We paid only 300 pesos for our consultation today and Dra. Jessica took a very thorough history of my sleeping disorder, realizing that I am very resistant to sleep medication so probed further in order to be able to find a sleep medication that she felt was a good starting point in order to find out what is going to work for me.  I also had her look at a nail fungus issue that has been unresolved during the last several years.  Although we had not made an appointment, she patiently spent more than half an hour discussing matters with us and sent me off with a prescription for what she thinks is going to be a good sleep medication to start with, knowing that we may need to add something else to tweak the effects if one tablet a night does not work for me.

Off to Farmacia Cristina (probably the best generic pharmacy in town) where I filled my prescriptions at 643 pesos for a 2 month supply of the sleeping pills (Tasedan) and 314 pesos for the 2 boxes of anti-fungal medication - a grand total of 958 for a two month supply of both medications.  Remember the doctor visit and the medications are all charges without any insurance at all and we are talking about $15.50 USD for the doctor and $49.80 USD for the medications ..

Since it was well after lunch time by the time we finished with the doctor and the pharmacy, we decided to stop for lunch at Chopsticks which we finally caught open (they only open from 11 to 4 each day and every time we pass by there, it is outside of those hours).  Today's special was beef and shrimp won-ton soup and we had a bowl each (80 pesos each) - it was really superb and made my hungry belly feel a whole lot happier.
They have changed the way that they used to offer Dim Sum (wow, 2 minutes from notification that they were offering Dim Sum and they were sold out).  Now they are offering Dim Sum every week on Tuesdays and Fridays at 2:00; 2:30 and 3:00  Reservations are still essential and already the whole of July is booked - it really is that popular.  For $250 you get the following:
Shrimp Dumplings (Har Gow)
Port Dumplings (Sui Mai)
Fried Spring Rolls
Chicken & Mushroom Dumplings
Scallion Rice Rolls
Sweet & Spicy Chicken Balls
Steamed BBQ Pork Buns

We saw them making an order of 'fresh' (as opposed to fried) spring rolls and even though we have been making our own lately, we decided to order some of theirs (which really looked so very good) for a light supper this evening.  We wanted to order 4 but the serving size they make is 3.  While Gerald came to discuss with me whether or not we really only need one order of 3, Quy came over to our table and said that he will happily make an order of 4 for us and charge us accordingly (67 pesos for the 4).  Yet another good experience that we will repeat again one day.

The day is not yet over, like so many of our days there is always more fun to have and my brain was telling me that dieting just cannot be the order of this particular day and I need to have some desert that is not remotely 'healthy' - we started on an adventure to find a small/individual chocolate cake or something similar but I just couldn't find what I wanted without it being too big (tomorrow is a different day and leftover chocolate cake would not be a good thing in my life).  That is when we happened to walk past Donas Donuts - problem solved.  Tonight we are going to enjoy healthy fresh spring rolls followed by unhealthy (poco saludable) desert .. I am going to enjoy every morsel.

We also stopped in at a new, modern grocery store to get some cocoa powder and finally bumped into Rafael who is a very good Mexican friend of ours that has done excellent construction work for us - a quick hug and chat and finally we got back home at around 4:30.  Another day of fun and adventure in paradise - we are so blessed and happy to be here living such a free and relaxed lifestyle where we are free of so many of the political, legal and cultural bonds that used to limit us in USA

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Update on our life in Ajijic

I am really falling down updating everyone on our goings on recently but, truth be told, I sometimes wonder how on earth we used to find time to work - let alone work 10 or more hours a day.  It never used to seem possible that we would have a life outside of work but we are really making up for it now.

On Monday 11th June, straight after our Spanish class, we headed out to Mazamitla to spend a couple of days celebrating our 14th wedding anniversary.  The weather has been a bit weird this year so far because the usual rains of the rainy season which are usually considerate enough to only fall during the night, have been falling mostly during the day - very unusual and not good for my general demeanor.

As we headed up into the mountains the rain got heavier but not our spirits.  We love the little town of Mazamitla, it is somewhat touristy but very traditional Mexican at the same time - definitely not an ex-pat stronghold like Ajijic.  We stayed at a wonderful little bed and breakfast (their definition, not mine) called Hotel Cascada Real, that was really a group of little cabins and hotel rooms spread around the outside of a lovely orchard filled with orange, lemon, lime, mango, avocado, apple and several other types of trees.  The walkway to our cabin was lined with lavender plants and smelt heavenly and the cabin itself was really cute and cozy with a wood fireplace which we put to good use because it was cold and wet up there!

We did not have a kitchen, just a little place to make coffee or tea but we had some lovely meals in town in the evenings.

The first day we ate at Restaurante Troje de Mazami, a favorite eating place each time that we visit Mazamitla.

On Tuesday after breakfast in town (yes this bed and breakfast gives a breakfast coupon for a little restaurant in town) we drove out to the the waterfall (La Cascada El Salto) which is in a beautiful fraccionamento called Los Cazos.  We were able to drive quite close to the waterfall by paying the guard at the entrance to the fraccionamento 50 pesos.  The walk down to the waterfall and back up again was actually quite enough for us on that particular day.

We took time to drive around the beautiful fraccionamento enjoying the amazing houses and gardens snuggled in among the trees.

Our anniversary meal on a particularly cool evening was at Restaurant El Charco where we were greeted with dishes of fresh mango, salsa, chips and little cups of hot and spicy fish soup.

I opted for Shrimp wrapped in bacon and 'bathed in cheese' and was not disappointed.

Gerald went for a steak which he also thoroughly enjoyed.

On the way home, I made a quick stop at one of the little arborretes on a back street somewhere and picked up a little bottle of rompope (a Mexican drink along the lines of egg nogg, yes the one with alcohol in it he he) for which I payed only 26 pesos and it was good - just a little something to warm us in front of the fire when we went back to the cabin.

This past week has been another one of those very busy social calendar weeks that is so typical of our life here.  On Saturday we walked into town as is our custom while Lupita is cleaning for us - we split a nice burrito at La Casa del Cafe:

Then we checked out hotel Danza del Sol on the way home in preparation for Christmas when Angela, Eric and the kids are going to be staying there.

On Sunday 17th Robert came over and we barbecued Italian sausages and had fun playing a game of Mexican Train on the patio:

The next day we went our for supper with Ralph to Alex's Pasta, where I had the most amazing meal of Distufa di Manzo (Italian beef stew) and Gerald enjoyed a lovely shrimp dish.  Since I am busy trying to watch my intake of carbs, the stewed seemed like a good, non pasta option, though I did enjoy the gnocchi that were in it.

On Thursday we went to the Smoke House with Suzanne and Kelly for their 'all you can eat ribs' and 2 for 1 margaritas.. wow it looks as though all we have been doing recently is eating .. and eating out at restaurants at that.  We do normally cook and eat at home mostly but the way of life here just goes like that, some weeks life just seems to be one hectic social whirl of eating, drinking and playing with all of our friends.

On Saturday we walked into town, had coffee and waited for our favorite back street bakery (Panaderia Roja) to finish baking cinnamon rolls - we needed some for the brunch that we were hosting the next day but I think that Gerald just really needed a cinnamon roll fix because he had one eaten before we got home and of course we bought a few more than we needed for the brunch - memories of having to buy two loaves of french bread back in USA because at least a half of the loaf got eaten on the way home ha ha
Yes this is the oven than the cinnamon rolls are baked in

Sunday was a lot of fun, we ate brunch out on our beautiful patio and then moved indoors to the dining room where the six of us played Mexican train and the next thing that you know, we had spent nearly 6 hours over this brunch get together .. time really does fly when you are having fun with friends.

Tuesday is market day - this one is the organic market just down the hill from us.  I usually pick up a couple of things here but prefer the cheaper and more local Monday and Friday markets in Chapala and Jocotopec respectively.

Wednesday was quite a full day because we braved the downpour on Wednesday morning to go into town to watch the soccer game in the sports bar above the Jardin Plaza restaurant - there was a great atmosphere and it helped having some locals there because we got the low down on the Germany game as well even though it was not on TV at that time - Mexico still have a chance in spite of the lack of playing skills, just because Germany are out at this point ha ha  Of course we had breakfast there while watching the game.

This plate of 2 breakfast burritos cost only 49 pesos and it was good, the green juice was only 22 pesos
That evening and .. yes .. wait for it .. we were out eating yet agin.

This time, Manix were having their special pig roast event - we have never eaten at Manix yet and now we are wondering why on earth not.  The meal was absolutely amazing (at only 250 pesos each).  A roast suckling pig with crackling like I remember it from my childhood days, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, stuffing, a broccoli/cauliflower mix, corn souffle and gravy followed by mango mousse .. all very yummy.  The music was outstanding and Gerald and I actually danced away some time .. we were with a very interesting group of 14 other people and I managed to get most everyone to change chairs part way through the evening so that we could all get to chat with everyone instead of just those within immediate earshot .. an excellent evening all round.
Hector attacking the pig


I even bumped into Robert our realtor
On Thursday Michael came over to watch the soccer game with us and then on Friday we had Suzanne and Kelly round for snacks, drinks and a game of Mexican train.

Which brings us back to another Saturday and another walk into town for coffee and a chat with Rob at the Dildoria - lots of good information from Rob about all the goings on at the hotel that he is a partner on.  They have an amazing social gathering on Friday evenings and yesterday they had to close the doors because there were already 80 people gathered there.  They are also organizing trips to Tequila (only 780 pesos) and they are also doing Indian cooking classes for only 400 pesos - yes so much still to explore, discover and enjoy so stay tuned y'all.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Ajijic and our Life in Mexico

We have settled down for a year in Ajijic just north of the main road (the Carretera as it is called locally).  Its walking distance to just about everything we need.  In case you are wondering (our followers outside of Mexico) Ajijic is pronounced "a-hee-hic".
As of August 1, 2017 we are now living on the northwest side of Ajijic after having spent 5 weeks at the Felipe Angles location just above Oxxo.  The lake at the bottom is Lake Chapala. The green at the top is a reserve on the mountain where there are lots of hiking trails. 

Where Ajijic is located in Mexico
Our Apartment
Our new apartment (which is a spacious 1 bed/1 bath) is perfect for us and was worth the many hours spent walking the streets and looking online searching for a place that we would want to call home.  It has been recently renovated and has a wonderful clean, light airy feel about it - it is fully furnished with very tasteful decor, a huge furnished patio looking out at the lake and downstairs there is a very pretty garden and a laundry area which all three apartments share.  All utilities (as well as twice weekly cleaning service) is included in the price, which makes bill paying really easy with a one stop shop bill of the same amount each month.

Outdoors living space with a view.

Dining al-fresco has become the norm in spite of the fact that we have a big beautiful table in the dining room as well as another table in the huge kitchen.

Light bright kitchen with lots of cabinets and an awesome 6 burner range with large oven, makes cooking all that lovely fresh meat and veggies fun and a pleasure.

The 'sink with a view' changes the whole concept of dish washing.
Retirement life if beginning to look pretty much like this now.

Ajijic and Lake Chapala
As the time of this writing, we have been here in Ajijic just coming on two months.  The rainy season is well underway and we have had a few warm days (high 80s / 32 C) and with the typically dry (low humidity) climate it has been the perfect climate for us.  The best thing is that the rains usually come in the evening or night with bright sunny days with bright blue skies and partial clouds.

I can't say it any better, so a quote from Wikipedia
The Chapala Lake basin has a year-round average temperature of about 72 °F (22 °C). Due to Ajijic's tropical latitude, the sun is warm year-round; due to its relatively high elevation, it is seldom unpleasantly hot or humid. The rainy season begins in June and lasts until October with an average rainfall of approximately 34 inches (860 mm). Even during the rainy season, precipitation generally occurs during the evening or at night.
December and January are the coolest months and May is the hottest, just before the onset of the rainy season. Overall, there is very little temperature variation year round: daytime highs in January are around 75 °F (24 °C); daytime highs in May are around 80 °F (27 °C) to 90 °F (32 °C).
Lake Chapala is the largest lake in Mexico, with its shores defining the southern edge of Ajijic.  The lake is at 5000 feet (1,524 meters) above sea level and is roughly 50 x 8 miles (80 x 12.5 km) and covers an approximate area of  420 sq mi (1,100 km2 ). It is a shallow lake, with a mean depth of 15 ft (4.5 m) and a maximum of  34 ft (10.5 m).  For our Montana friends, its about double the size of Flathead lake but not near as deep!  A lake this size has a significant thermal effect creating an ideal micro climate.  Not too hot, not too cold and surprisingly not too humid.

Rosalind on the shore of Lake Chapala

Looking south west across the lake from Ajijic
Looking west.  Ajijic is right (out of frame) and you can see the mountain range behind Ajijic.
Hiking Trails
There are numerous hiking trails from the edge of town up into the mountains.   The Ajijic Hiking Group on Facebook has hikes on Tuesdays and Fridays.  Everything from beginning to expert level hiking.
The hikers/blog authors Gerald and Rosalind!

Overlooking Ajijic and Lake Chapala

Planting corn just before the rains on a ridge about half way up the mountain.

Rest break on the trail at one of the shrines.
Rosalind at one of the waterfalls.

What we love about Mexico
Before we left the USA for Mexico, we noticed a lot of comments of how dirty Mexico was.  Granted we have seen some poor areas of the country where there was a lot of trash alongside the roads but for the most part we think Mexico is just as clean if not cleaner than in the USA.  In our humble opinions, we have seen more trash in the streets in San Antonio TX than in similar sized cities (Saltillo, Durango etc) here in Mexico.  Now we are not talking about garbage collection sites as shown below.  FYI, in Ajijic garbage collection is 6 days a week!
Garbage waiting for the garbage truck.  Note the hooks on the light post to keep the smelly bags up away from the dogs.  Also note the cobble stone streets, all but the main road (which is asphalt paved) are like this.  You have to watch where you are walking!  But its great exercise for the ankles.
Garbage Truck on the streets of Ajijic.  Note the recycling bags hanging on the back.  They sort through the bags as they are loaded on the truck separating out the recyclables.  Mexico is the worlds largest recycler of  plastic bottles.  Must be because of all the plastic water bottles - a lot of bottled water is sold because tap water is not safe to drink.

A fruit vendor selling cups of berries (on the table).  No customers at the moment, so he was sweeping the grass and rocks after the rain.
Local Markets
On Wednesdays in Ajijic, they close off a street for the Wednesday Tianguis.  This is where vendors and artisans come from all around to sell their wares from jewelry to clothes to fruit/veggies to meat, to you name it.  The rainy season has started so the vendors have tarps up to keep out the rain.  The day this was taken was one of the unusual days where it was raining during the day.

Our shopping style has changed a lot since we arrived in Mexico - very few supermarket trips for us anymore and none of the big Super stores.  The larger cities have Costco and Sams club (i.e. in Guadalajara) etc. but we seldom shop there. The market is the place to go for 'harvested this morning' fruit and vegetables, the arborreta (corner store) is the place to go for bits and bobs, milk etc.  The panaderia (bakery) is the place for good fresh breads and amazing pastries.  The carneceria (butcher) for meat and the pescaderia (fish shop) for fish.  Yes, our shopping style has reverted to what it would have been back in 1950s or 1960s.  We go to the florist for beautiful fresh cut flowers where we requested a mixed bunch of flowers (order by price/value) for 50 pesos (less than $3 US) and we got an armful of beautiful flowers.  We walk to all the different stores, sometimes coming back to offload our purchases before making another trip into town, maybe buying a cup of coffee and visiting with friends or people watching.  We have our favorite little places where we buy fresh herbs and spices, the little red truck at the side of the road where we buy fresh ground locally grown coffee and the licor (liquor) store where we buy some good tequila at a fraction of what we used to pay for the Southern Comfort that we used to have for a nightcap in Texas.

Building Architecture and Life Behind Walls
Walls are just a part of the Mexican culture and life style.  From the street, you have no idea what lies behind the wall, usually is it a beautiful court yard...

Wall built around a tree.  Notice the trunk at curb level and branches coming out and going back into the wall.

Courtyard at Ajijic Suites where we stayed for a couple of days between our arrival in town and moving into a short term rental.

Courtyard at Ajijic Suites
"The jungle" at our friends Pat and Russ's casita.

Russ and their floral front door.

San Miguel and the Lake Chapala area are the only places in Mexico (so far) where we have seen the fine brick work ceilings (boveda ceilings).  The bricks are locally manufactured here in town mostly and we have seen that the bricks have different appearances according to who makes them.  Truck loads of bricks are seen most days on the carretera below our new apartment in Rancho del Oro - they are driven out from town to this location for sale directly off the trucks.
Bricked cupola at a friends house near us.

Ceiling herringbone brick pattern
Ceiling pattern in our rented house.
Similar to what we reported in Tulum, you just can't cut down a tree on the edge of the street or even in your yard. They are protected and if the tree is dying you get a permit for a few hundred pesos and the city removes the tree.  If on the street they usually will plant a new tree after removing the old one.
Tree in the way of that wall?  No problem!
We have gradually settled into some sort of routine of having coffee on the patio each morning and commenting on how amazing it is that we get to live here and see this constantly changing view of the lake all the time (the opposite end of the apartment where we have our computer desk, affords us an equally beautiful view of the mountains).

Each day we take long walks into town, often meeting up with friends for coffee or lunch, or just picking up some item that we need that particular day.  Sometimes we have breakfast at the French bakery on the carretera below where we live, we explore the organic tiengius nearby on Tuesdays and buy beautiful fresh fruit, vegetables and meat - sometimes some pieces of clothing which we have made to our personal requirements.  Other days our walk may be into town to have supper with friends, maybe at one of the hundreds of local restaurants or at their home (usually followed by a fun game of Mexican Train).  We do more entertaining here ourselves than we used to do back in the USA - it is always fun to have friends over, to cook for them and play games and there is usually a bottle of wine and/or some tequila involved as well.